Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7
Part 8
Part 9
Part 10
Part 11
Part 12
Part 13
Part 14
Part 15
Part 16
Part 17
Part 18
Part 19
Part 20
Part 21
Part 22
Part 23
Part 24
Part 25
Part 26
Part 27
Part 28
Part 29
Part 30
Part 31
Part 32
Part 33
Part 34
Part 35
Part 36
Part 37
Part 38
Part 39
Part 40
Part 41
Part 42
Part 43
Part 44
Part 45
Part 46
Part 47
Part 48
Part 49
Part 50
Part 51
Part 52
Part 53
Part 54
Part 55
Part 56
Part 57
Part 58
Part 59
Part 60
Part 61
Part 62
Part 63
Part 64
Part 65
Part 66
Part 67
Part 68
Part 69
Part 70
Part 71
Part 72
Part 73
Part 74
Part 75
Part 76
Part 77
Part 78
Part 79
Part 80
Part 81
Part 82
Part 83
Part 84
Part 85
Part 86
Part 87
Part 88
Part 89
Part 90
Part 91
Part 92
Part 93
Part 94
Part 95
Part 96
Part 97
Part 98
Part 99
Part 100
Part 101
Part 102
Part 103
Part 104
Part 105
Part 106
Part 107
Part 108
Part 109
Part 110
Part 111
Part 112
Part 113
Part 114
Part 115
Part 116
Part 117
Part 118
Part 119
Part 120
Part 121
Part 122
Part 123
Part 124
Part 125
Part 126
Part 127
Part 128
Part 129
Part 130
Part 131
Part 132
Part 133
Part 134
Part 135
Part 136
Part 137
Part 138
Part 139
Part 140
Part 141
Part 142
Part 143
Part 144
Part 145
Part 146
Part 147
Part 148
Part 149
Part 150
Part 151
PART 10: June 10, 1915  

June 18, 1915 - Dilemmas - Part I

---- 10:15 AM, bridge of Strassburg, course 030, speed 22 knots

"Hit! Another!"

Three tall splashes appeared along the near-side of their target, the last of the trio of AMCs that had been to the north of Niobe, whose bow still poked out of the water off Strassburg's starboard after quarter. A previous salvo had thrown up water out of sight of Strassburg's crew, outboard of the AMC. The other two AMCs were dead in the water, each the base of a tower of smoke and flame. The one that had taken 280 mm hits was listing and down in the stern, while Strassburg's first target listed somewhat but remained on a more even keel. It was a dramatic sight for the passengers on the German liners, for the civilian yachtsmen on their pleasure craft, and for the Americans on their warships.

Kommodore von Hoban, though, looked only at their present target. Previously, she'd taken at least two 150 mm hits in the general area of her bridge. Her bow gun had gone silent several minutes ago. Her plight was hopeless.


Things had just gotten a lot worse for the Brit. Von der Tann had just scored her first hit somewhere on the stern. A near miss had landed close aboard forward, throwing spray onto her forequarter. The Britisher turned hard to starboard, steam puffs flickering at the fore of her stack. Moments later, the plaint of her steam whistle could be heard above the sounds of battle. Someone, thought the Kommodore, was wrenching away at the whistle's lanyard as though his very life depended on it.

"Sir ..."

"Cease fire! Cease fire!"

Another set of three splashes loomed out of the sea, missing close ahead only because the AMC, white cloths now seen to be waving frantically at two locations along her bridge rail, was slowing and turned aside from her previous heading.

"Signals Officer, three longs - now!

"Captain, approach close aboard - take her."

"Aye, aye, Herr Kommodore," replied Captain Siegmund with great feeling. "Right 5 degrees rudder. Come to course 050."

"Sir, my rudder is right 5 degrees ..."

"Muster the boarding party...," Siegmund began.

"And, Captain," von Hoban added as the men began to respond, "please pass the word for LT Lionel. I'll meet him there."

---- 10:15 AM, bridge of von der Tann, course 350, speed 20 knots

Sir! Target has pulled up. Her wake is .... She's stopping, sir."

"Cease fire!" Captain Dirk shouted. "Left 8 degrees rudder."

"Sir, my rudder is coming left ..."

They saw that Strassburg's distant profile had already narrowed as she put her rudder over to head for the AMC. Dirk steadied himself, as his own deck canted, and began to estimate ....

"Recommend 135, sir," offered CDR Bavaria, his eyes to the southwest.

"Come to course 135," ordered Dirk. He raised an eyebrow at his XO.

"... my rudder is left 8, coming to course 135."

"Keeps us well off line from the Americans," said the XO, nodding vaguely at the tall cagemasts nearly Due East, "while letting us lay three turrets on the last Britishers."

Dirk nodded and raised his glasses.

---- 10:16 AM, bridge of New York, course 030, speed 6 knots

"Admiral, the Germans have ceased firing on the last one to the northeast. Strassburg has turned to close her."

The last AMC to the northeast must be trying to surrender. Having seen three others smashed to pieces, themselves hit several times, unable to reply, and unable to escape, Alton decided that he shouldn't be too surprised. Yes, he spied a bit of white showing in her forward superstructure. He looked again at the other two AMCs who had been with her; they were dead and in the process of burning out.

"Admiral, the battlecruiser is turning to port. She looks to be going to go after the others."

There had to be something that he could do. Anything. He commanded decisive force but there was no way to use it. God, but he felt so damned impotent.

"Captain, come right, if you please. Place the squadron on 150." The captain looked at the Signals Officer. "Smartly, captain, and bring us to 8 knots."

"Aye, aye, sir. Helm, right 15 degrees rudder, come to course 150. Make turns for 8 knots."

Alton wanted no delay and had no doubt that the Wyoming and the others would follow his flagship. He raised his binoculars to take a last look to the northeast, then pivoted to gaze to the southeast. He spared hardly a glance at the other ships in his formation, and his watch remained in his pocket.

"Signals Officer," Alton ordered, grimly, "for Aylwin, they are to assist in rescue operations." The admiral paused, the drumming of his fingers on a stanchion hinted at internal tensions. "And Montana," he added, after a moment. "Montana to take station off our starboard bow."

---- 10:17 AM, bridge of Rostock, course 270, speed 22 knots

"Crack-crack!" Hits were being scored almost every third shot, as their target had greatly slowed and the range was already under 10,000 yards, and dropping fast.

Captain Westfeldt looked over their target off their starboard bow. Flames gushed brightly from two different gaping wounds and the smoke roiled black and thick towards the sky. Though her speed had been dropping off for the last several minutes, only now did she appear to be going dead in the water. Yes, he thought, her bow was no longer pointing along her previous course. As he watched, her aspect began to change. The waves now ruled her heading, not her rudder. The two undamaged AMCs were more to the north - further from Rostock, but closer to von der Tann and, presumably, closer to Strassburg.

"Cease fire," he ordered. "New target ..."

The next AMC was just now coming into range. The third, originally the northernmost of this trio, was on a course almost exactly west. She might well make it to US waters, unless one of the other German warships could stop her.


A final round went out and ... into ... their first target. Its detonation, if there'd been one, was lost in the roaring flames.

A splash, then another, showed off their starboard beam, about 400 yards distant, and short. It appeared that the next AMC had recognized Rostock as their imminent threat. The line of sight to the AMC was partly fouled by the billowing smoke from their first kill. In fact, she might have altered her course a bit southerly to block fire from her prospective assailant.

"Right 3 degrees rudder," Westfeldt ordered. "Come to course 330. Ready - port side guns."

---- 10:18 AM, small boat (Strassburg)

"Lieutenant, I'm placing you in command ...," was still echoing in his ears when the Atlantic greeted LT Lionel with a cold slap of wave crest foam. He glanced back and recognized that his craft had just emerged from the bit of lee afforded by the German warship. The cruiser's guns remained trained on the AMC off his own bow. There, the second boat was free and already closing up with them.

"... secure the ship ..."

The young German turned and looked ahead at what was about to become his first command. He swallowed. He'd been the obvious choice - that he understood. After all, he was supercargo and the Kommodore knew he spoke English. But the canvas-wrapped bundle in his lap was weightier than worlds. He swallowed again.

---- 10:19 AM, bridge of von der Tann, course 135, speed 18 knots (increasing)

"Steady on 135."

"Range to target 17,000 yards, sir."

"Captain, the Americans are turning, possibly towards us."

Dirk shrugged. "Open fire," he ordered. Nonetheless, he cast wary glances at the dreadnought force off his starboard beam, waiting to see if they were trying to intervene, or if they were simply reversing course as part of their patrol beat. He was not, however, about to let them stop him. The American dreadnoughts were still at least 7,500 yards WNW of the fleeing AMC, closer to 10,000 yards, perhaps.

There'd been seven Britishers in this latest batch, he recalled. They'd put down four - five, counting Rostock's target - but it was not clear if they'd get the last two.

"So many targets, so little time," commented CDR Bavaria in a low voice, echoing his captain's thoughts.

"Boom-boommm." Their first 280 mm salvo went out, the three guns almost merging their sounds.

"Ja," Dirk nodded, in agreement. "With Moltke here, as well, this would have gone quickly."

They paused to watch the fall of shot. Jets of water showed in their quarry's wake. Short, but only by a couple hundred yards or so, and tightly on line.

"However," Dirk continued, "if the admiral had delayed to shift his flag, they all might have escaped."

It was his XO's turn to nod. The second salvo went out.

---- 10:20 AM, bridge of Rostock, course 330, speed 21 knots (increasing)


The port gunners had had to stand by as the starboard crews got all the action. Until now. Their rate of fire reflected their enthusiasm. The men at the two bow guns, however, were beginning to show the effects of a full hour of almost constant firing. So was their ammo supply, as they had shot out their ready stocks and most of the rest, as well. The loaders and ammo handlers were wet with sweat, bands of cloth were draped about their necks and heads.


Westfeldt grunted. The first rounds were well short. The range must be closer to 13,000 yards than the 12,000 yards that had been estimated.

The next ones were better, and the splashes began to march towards their target, whose own rounds were landing astern and to starboard. Still, it was nearly extreme range. Even as he watched, Westfeldt saw their quarry altering course to put them more directly astern. His present course would let them get out of range in moments.


It was not going to be enough, he concluded, even after a second hit was noted.

"Come left, course 290."

It would have to be up to the bow gunners, after all.

---- 10:21 AM, launch (Moltke)

"Achtzehn," LT Lionel called over to the Master of Arms petty officer, "three with wounds."

Two rafts now lay alongside the battlecruiser. Where they had come from, Lionel was unsure, but one was being used as a receiving point. Its pitching deck was dark with huddled forms. A stretcher with one figure was being hoisted up to the deck above. Others could be seen making their way up a ladder. Trails of smoke, not all from her stacks, threaded into the sky.

"Eighteen, aye, aye, sir."

Captain Theargus tore his gaze from that raft, the few score of men visible were a tiny fraction of the British crews, and over to the other. On the second raft, German sailors were intently examining something, presumably the Allied handiwork. He coughed, drew breath in hard through his nose, then spat over the side, the red sputum lost in the waves. The numbness was leaving his arm, and the pain was growing. At least the urge to cough seemed to be ebbing.

"Looking a bit worse for wear, isn't she?" Theargus commented loudly, more for his men than for anything else. There was little response.

Losing one's ship is like losing one's right arm. Theargus had lost one and broke the other, and might well have preferred it the other way around. He knew despair to be a grievous, potentially mortal wound all its own, and the Aussie officer marked it in all those he saw. It had all happened too fast, he realized. Losing a desperate battle was one thing, but they had expected victory, had been expecting it for days, and an easy one at that as part of an overwhelming force. The overwhelming force, however, turned out not to have been theirs. And it had all come apart in just minutes. Those below decks had never learned how the roles had reversed, until ....

Meanwhile, Lionel had flushed, not knowing his game.

"Yes, your ships died well," he replied in a cold fury, after a moment of mental translation. "Every one of them."

"There be worse epitaphs than that," the Aussie muttered, his face greying as he tried to step out of the boat.

"Better to live," said Lionel, as he handed the other over to the men on the raft.

---- 10:22 AM, bridge of Kolberg, course 260, speed 16 knots

LCDR Dahm had altered course shortly after the hour. Salamis, 3,000 yards astern, had promptly done the same. He'd been confident then and had even less doubt now.

"Trust the Kommodore," Dahm thought, "and Hanzik, to post signs for us."

"Signals, inform the Admiral that we have them in sight. Give our course and speed. Rendezvous estimate - 90 minutes."

Dahm could not see what was at the bases of the tall black towers now dead ahead on the horizon. Whatever they were, he hoped they weren't German. He knew he was assuming that Hanzik's force, some of them, at least, had remained near the plumes. It seemed safe enough.

"Ah, First Lieutenant Diele," Dahm said, as the other officer stepped near. The very young Acting-CO was gratified to see that the even-younger LT appeared much steadier in this, his second visit to the bridge. Most of the "evidence" had been removed in the last hour, but much remained.

Gut, he thought. He would have called him to the bridge in another few minutes anyway. There was no one else too near, and there were issues to be faced.

"Acting-XO, I should've said," Dahm corrected himself, looking for a reaction. The other just nodded; good, he thought, again. Dahm had joined Kolberg the day before they had left port. He didn't know much about this young man beyond his name and rank - LT Peter David Diele. There simply hadn't been time. Neither, of course, did Diele know him, Dahm. The captain that the crew had known - and possibly lionized - had died where they both now stood, Diele ramrod straight and Dahm hunched over, one arm wrapped around his ribcage. Well, "died" was also a bit of a euphemism, Dahm recognized, considering what had greeted their eyes here. Nonetheless, Dahm, a stranger, had become the new "father figure" for the tight little family of the light cruiser.

"It will be my duty to report to the Kommodore, or possibly the Admiral. In 90 minutes. A full report will be required, and I'll want to transfer our prisoners at that time. XO," Dahm paused, unable to word the next part well, "ladders are a bit of a problem for me, just now, so I leave it to you to assemble the information that I will need. Besides our damage, fuel, and ammo, the Kommodore will certainly ask if this ship needs any replacements. Including officers."

He'd been in command for less than two hours. An hour since he'd ordered them back underway, possibly, just possibly, leaving men in the water.

"So, Mr. Diele, if you, or the crew, have any opinion as to how I should answer the Kommodore .... Well, if so, it's best I hear them before I go to report."

"No, sir." Diele was startled into staring afresh at the slender officer, whose posture made no attempt to conceal his infirmity. If he had gotten that right, he'd just been asked if the crew would accept him as CO and if Diele was ready to continue as XO. Ach du lieber Himmel!

Diele opened his mouth to say more, and hesitated, mouth still partly agape. He realized then that Dahm did not know how others, including the crew, saw him. That his nonchalant demeanor bespoke of steadiness, of adaptability, of readiness to deal with whatever Fate or the British sent him. How could he tell him that?!

"Sir," is what he finally got out, "with your permission, I'd like to have the pharmacist's mate report to the bridge. A tight wrap would provide a lot of support."

"Thank you, XO."

Dahm closed his eyes as the other officer left. Yes, he thought, a wrap might help, but Diele had already provided the support he'd needed most.

---- 10:23 AM, bridge of von der Tann, course 135, speed 20 knots

The Britisher was proving to be an elusive target. She had gotten up to 15 knots - and might still be accelerating - and had declined to remain on any one course. The range was dropping slowly, and she was salvo chasing with well-founded desperation.

"Sir, the Americans have steadied up on course 150."

"Very well."

That was good news, of course, but he might have to abandon this target in a few minutes. While he refused to let the Americans intimidate him, his orders were not to antagonize them. In fact, they were direct and absolute in that regard.

"Long - all shells long."


---- 10:23 AM, bridge of Rostock, course 290, speed 22 knots


I'd taken them nearly three minutes to land another, but they were beginning to close the gap. The enemy was obviously straining to increase her speed, but she'd probably never in her whole life made the 22 knots of her pursuer. Westfeldt had considering ordering more turns himself, but knew accuracy would greatly deteriorate. The AMC's stern gun was doubtless suffering from just that, as their shell splashes showed no particular pattern. Hell, the whole after quarter of the ex-merchant was probably threatening to shake itself to pieces under the present strains of prop and rudder. It was a wonder her crew could operate her stern gun at all.

Not that he didn't have his own problems. Rostock's Gunnery Officer apparently had sent forward additional loaders and others to help manhandle the heavy shells. The ones they'd relieved remained there, collapsed near their posts.


There might have been another, too far forward to be seen. Smoke began to trail back, separate from that from her stacks.

---- 10:24 AM, bridge of Nottingham Star, stopped

"I accept the surrender of this vessel, in the name of Kaiser Wilhelm II," LT Lionel had pronounced, in ringing tones.

There'd been no applause. No trumpets had proclaimed in triumph nor drums rolled in flourish. There'd been only a sullen silence from the three tattered, smoke-blackened men who had lowered the ladderway. No officer had been there to hand over his sword - they were likely all dead, Lionel had concluded. It was flat. Anti-climactic. But it was enough.

The Britishers had continued to offer no resistance whatsoever to his boarding party. He had expected none, of course, with the white cloths on the Britisher's rail topside and the black mouths of Strassburg's guns alongside. He had, nonetheless, kept two of the rifle toting guards with him, though he had sent the rest with the two damage control teams. One team had been tasked to help put out the fires, and the other to ensure there'd be no scuttle attempts. He had yet to hear from either of them.

Lionel entered the shell-holed bridge of the AMC. There, on the deck, based mostly on the uniforms, were the remains of at least two of the missing officers. He would have to have them removed, but they'd need canvas, and care. He handed the bundle that had so weighted upon him to the bosun who had accompanied him, and then stepped out on the wing to watch.

It was but the work of a few moments, and the flag of Germany ascended the halyards.

He felt a lump swell in his throat but, yet, the cheers from alongside surprised him still.

---- 10:24 AM, Chocorua Princess, course 070, speed 7 knots

The owner's companion had quite a temper.

"Nathaniel Hawthorne Benson Lannon, you listen to me! They're all shooting at each other! They'll be shooting at us next. You're going to get us killed!"

"Claire, we're safe, I tell you. The Germans are shooting at the British and the British are shooting at the Germans. We're Americans. No one's going to be shooting at us. Heck, America is not even in their war."

"Nate," called Nik from his stirrup perch part way up the mast. "They're men in the water out there. They're not going to last very long."

"Hah!" Claire retorted. "How do THEY know we're Americans?!"

"Uh, you're right. You're absolutely right," Lannon agreed, and he pivoted sharply.

"So, you're going to turn back?"

"No," he replied, as he rummaged in a locker, "but I do have a flag in here, someplace."

"Omigod!" Nik's companion exclaimed.

"What, Maggie?" Claire asked, as Lannon searched.

"That ship. She's coming almost right at us, isn't she?"

"Ohh!" A large fireball burst on the oncoming ship, now under a mile away. Moments later, the sound reached them.

---- 10:24 AM, bridge of von der Tann, course 135, speed 20 knots


There had actually been two hits. The second one had thrust deep into an after hold, but had failed to explode.

The AMC swerved harder than before, then began to swing back again, almost onto her immediately previous course. Three splashes rose majestically alongside her, detonating in the sea close aboard. It had become a duel of sorts between the German Gunnery Officer and the British Captain.


"The AMC must have lost a bit more way in those last turns," offered Bavaria.

---- 10:25 AM, bridge of New York, course 150, speed 8 knots

The drama was playing out off his port bow now. It's end appeared foreordained.

Rear-Admiral Alton's glasses watched as the tall jets of foam peaked and began to subside, no more than 500 yards ahead of that damn fool and his sailboat. The clown was doing something there with his lines, frantically.

He cursed under his breath. Then, suddenly, smiled. And began to shout orders.

---- 10:27 AM, bridge of von der Tann, course 135, speed 20 knots


"Ach, ja!"

The flash of the explosion had been amidships. The rudder angle that had let the Britisher escape a minute ago had come back to haunt them, Dirk thought. They had the target solution now.


"Gott in Himmel!" Dirk exclaimed. For the barest moment only, he hesitated, torn by conflict.

"Cease fire! Cease fire!" Dirk shouted.

The lead American dreadnought had just opened fire with her two forward turrets. They had not been aimed at the Germans, or at anyone. They probably had not even had shells loaded, but the message was clear enough.

"Our heading?" Bavaria commented.

"Ja," agreed Dirk. "Helm, left three degrees rudder, come to 180. Ahead 2/3 - make turns for 8 knots. Gunnery Officer, train all guns fore-and-aft."

Dirk watched as their target, trailing a great, ragged plume of smoke, continued towards American waters.

"Rostock also has broken off," reported Bavaria. The light cruiser's target had obviously been hit many times, though. Visible flames could be seen on her as she, too, made for the American coastline. He pointed that out to his captain.

"Ja, ja," answered Dirk in disgust. "Damn the Americans. Damn them! Why did they interfere? The Britishers were still miles from their 3-Mile Limit. Miles!"

"It's another version of the ‘Golden Rule,' sir," Bavaria remarked. "He who has the dreadnoughts makes the rules."

by Jim

Home | Gaming Model | Dogger Bank | Intermission Stories | Jutland | After Jutland | Side Stories | Ein Geleitzug | The Humor of jj | NEW!

Content Copyright 2010 Lettertime. All Rights Reserved.
Web Design 2009-2010 Kathryn Wanschura
Contact Letterstime